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This elegant fan with its splendid colouring and patina is from the ethnic Mon people of south-western Thailand. It was used by a Buddhist monk. It has a spit bamboo handle with a hammered pewter cap at the end, and a body of woven palm leaves or bamboo slithers. It has been lacquered red. The handle has an inscription – probably dedicatory – along one side in Mon script. There is also a unalome symbol to symbolise the seated Buddha.
One side of the fan has been decorated with three squares of gold leaf. Probably, the fan was kept as a relic by an adherent, after it had been owned by a monk, and the gold leaf was applied as a merit-earning offering.
Fans of woven leaves are among the few personal possessions permitted to a Buddhist monk. They were used to swoosh away mosquitoes and also to shield their face when they were being presented with alms so that the adherent giving the alms would be offering it to the essence of the Buddha rather than to the persona of the monk.
The Mon are a Buddhist ethnic group who reside in southern Burma and in several areas in western Thailand. They are among the oldest inhabitants of Southeast Asia.
The fan is in excellent condition with a superb patina and colour.
Conway, S., The Shan: Culture, Arts & Crafts, River Books, 2006.